Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Sci Fi Between the Cracks

 This week's photo gallery:


Scottish Highlands - found on Facebook

Sunset, 9/21 by Martha Riegert West



Ever since I began my Blue Moon Rising series, way back in April 2013, I've been trying to figure out what sub-genre of Science Fiction I'm writing. And sure enough, at an RWA conference I heard one of my favorite Sci Fi authors, Linnea Sinclair, expound on this subject, and she was pretty adamant about it. In short form:  if you write fiction set in the future, thoroughly grounded in scientific knowledge and correct technical details, with emphasis on the story-line, you are writing Sci Fi. If you are writing fiction set in the future, emphasizing romance and hot sex, you are writing the sub-genre called Futuristic. And if you are writing anything in between, you are not going to make any money at it!

Which, alas, would explain why my Regencies make money and my peculiar mix of Sci Fi, Fantasy, and Paranormal doesn't. Sigh.

Then again, I write for the love of writing. For the love of writing what I want to write. And I truly loved creating the planets, people, and customs of the Nebulon Sector in a Quadrant of our galaxy just waiting to be discovered. And, fortunately, I keep pages and pages of notes on Government, Religion, Transportation, Warships, vocabulary, etc., etc., because after finishing Gothic #10, The Secrets of Stonebridge Castle, I was drawn back into the World of Blue Moon and could not have managed without all those reference materials.

So why don't my books fit either the Sci Fi or Futuristic mold? I freely admit to lacking the scientific or technical knowledge necessary to qualify as a true Sci Fi author. Compete with Heinlein, Azimov, and Clarke? Are you kidding? Today's Sci Fi authors as well. (Linnea Sinclair's tech details, for example, are truly impressive.) So scratch that one.

And although Romance plays a strong role in my stories—I believe I once counted 20+ romances over the four books of the Blue Moon series—I do not include sex in moment by moment, heavy-breathing detail. Romance, yes; details, no.

So what do I write? Stories set in a future time, with heavy overtones of the paranormal—from psychic gifts to sorcery to shapeshifting (and yes, there's even a werewolf). Stories with a lot of hopefully clever badinage, plus action and adventure. And oh—did I forget to mention?—I write Sci Fi for females, not Sci Fi designed to cater to male tastes. Although I delve into the heads of my male characters, female points of view predominate. Female sensitivity, worries, fears, and feelings. (All things males tend to shun like the plague.) I recall being astounded by a review of Rebel Princess that was critical of the amount of "feelings," and I realized that as a long-time Romance author, it had never even occurred to me that a male might read my book.

Which is why, as I work my way through Crucible Kingdom, a spin-off of the Blue Moon series, I made an effort to pin down the sub-genre I'm writing so both male and female readers can have a better idea of what they'd find in a Blair Bancroft novel set in the future.

Future Fantasy/Paranormal probably covers it best, but that isn't a sub-genre recognized by anybody. (Great sigh.) All I can say is, if you want Romance and Adventure set in a complex and colorful world in our own galaxy (though far in the future) and without a lot of time spent in the bedroom, my Blue Moon books are it. 

The world of Blue Moon should also appeal to those who prefer Historical tales, as it contains kings, queens, princesses, and one of the most unusual princes to be found in either fact or fiction. There's a classic rebellion, if on a much wider scale than a single kingdom, and in my work-in-progress, the fight is against a Curse that threatens an entire planet. So take a chance, read an "Historical" novel set a couple thousand years in the future.

Special note, particularly to those who care about editing:  I am re-reading the entire series so hopefully in my current book, I won't make any mistakes in the world I created for Blue Moon Rising. But, oh dear, I was horrified by the errors I found in Rebel Princess. Until I finally remembered that I did not do the final edit! It was a product of the Kindle Scout program. Sigh. I made a list and will be fixing all those typos soon. Sorry about that.

~ * ~

The four books of the Blue Moon Rising series are available as individual novels through most online vendors. In order:  Rebel Princess, Sorcerer's Bride, The Bastard Prince, Royal Rebellion.






































A boxed set of all four books is available on Amazon, free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers, for purchase by those who do not. For a link to the boxed set, click here.


Available on Amazon only


~ * ~

For a link to Blair's website, click here.

 For a link to Blair's Facebook Author Page  click here.


Thanks for stopping by,

Grace (Blair Bancroft)

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Why I Love Editing

 For those who enjoy a good editor joke:

Cassidy in her Air Force ROTC uniform

Willow meets her first mouse (it escaped)


Many, many years ago, when all three of my children were finally in school, I made a stab at writing for the first time. And immediately discovered that unlike my mother, the very successful author of umpteen children's books, I wasn't one of those writers who could just sit down and toss off perfect sentences on the first try. [I used to type my mother's final copy, so I knew how few changes she made in her original (typed on yellow paper on a flimsy little typewriter we now look back on in horror.)]

Yet I was someone who didn't get more than the bare bones onto the page the first time around. And even though typewriters had improved to electric, including such great models as the IBM Selectric, it was still necessary to retype the entire manuscript every time I did an edit. Aargh! Needless to say, it was not until word processing popped up in the early 80s that I was able to do any serious writing.

Except life intervened—a move to Florida, the demands of three teens in high school—and suddenly it was the early 90s, I was running a costume rental business in Venice, Florida, and writing was the farthest thing from my mind.  Then life threw us a curve ball—my husband suffered a stroke that would leave him an invalid until his death ten years later. I was now a caregiver, home pretty much 24-hours a day, and owner of a computer with one of the early versions of Corel's Word Perfect. So guess what? At long last I had the time to try my hand at serious writing and the proper equipment to back me up.

I challenge anyone to be more grateful than I was for the ability to write a draft, then edit it by merely deleting or inserting text exactly where I wanted it to go. Hallelujah! My first effort ran to 140,000 words! (The Sometime Bride) But I didn't care how many times I edited that manuscript because, compared to the old way of doing things, word processing was a miracle.

But, truth is, I really enjoy editing. For me, that means sitting down with hardcopy and discovering what I have. Did I come close to getting it right, so I only need to add or delete a word here and there? Or do I have to tear the whole thing apart, and with the aid of pencils, pens, and legal pads, add whole paragraphs of insertions, invert sentences already there, cross out irrelevant details that detract from the storyline, etc., etc., etc? 

I love the challenge. Descriptions are my worst failing. I plunge ahead, completely ignoring the fact that my readers can't see into my mind and flesh out my characters looks, dialogue, and actions without my help. And then there's Set-up and Motivation—absolute "musts" to make your story comprehensible. If you've left those out, you leave your readers scowling. I also tend to rush ahead to that one-on-one scene I have in my head, "jumping the gun" without the few words of transition that ease into it. 

To me, finding these glitches in my draft is like a treasure hunt. I pounce on it, delighted when I find a way to make my work better. To identify. Clarify. Insert the changes. Reprint. Abracadabra! I've created something far better than the original.

I edit a second time, a third, a fourth. Until my work is as near perfect as I can make it. A feat that gives me satisfaction, time after time. A challenge, not a chore. (And yes, the inevitable typo or two will still get through, but that's not at all the same as missing descriptions, missing motivations, missing explanations.)

Summary.  Never groan over editing. Consider it the "fun" part of writing. The opportunity to see if your words are flowing in the right direction, if you've given your readers the information they need to enjoy your story. Editing is a privilege and a joy. Something you do not only for the satisfaction of your readers but for yourself as well.

For a whole slew of "how to" details on Editing (c. 45 articles in all), please see my Making Magic with Words. Which also includes an even longer section on Writing and a few observations in Random Thoughts.



And don't forget Gothic #10, The Secrets of Stonebridge Castle (with, I'm happy to say, a whole bunch of 5-star reviews on Amazon).

~ * ~

For a link to Blair's updated website, click here.

 For a link to Blair's updated Facebook Author Page

with background details on Secrets, click here.


Thanks for stopping by,

Grace (Blair Bancroft)


Saturday, October 16, 2021

Venice-set Mystery/Suspense

 I have posted innumerable photos to this blog in ten-plus years, and other than pics of my grandchildren, the one below comes close to touching me most. Taken right here in Longwood (FL), it was posted to Nextdoor, our neighborhood email loop. Evidently an elderly lady was out shopping on her electric scooter when it broke down. In the rain. And four young men pushed her all the way home. Someone noticed them and posted this photo to Nextdoor.


The next time you're tempted to think badly of teens . . .


 Last-minute addition - Friday, October 15, 2021:

The long-awaited, just-revealed national Girl Scout video, featuring a whole slew of new looks for Scouts from 7-17, was created at my son-in-law's studio in Longwood (with a side trip to a studio in Orlando for a different backdrop for the older girls). I played a small role as "checker-in" for those participating in the day-long shoot in Longwood. My daughter Susie was the co-ordinator for the event, with two ladies down from the GS national office in NYC, overseeing rolling racks of the new uniforms in a variety of sizes. True excitement, and the result . . .

For the Girl Scout video, click here.


Blair's Venice-set Mysteries & Suspense

Having spent two weeks blogging about south Sarasota County, Florida—Venice in particular—I thought I should finish off this segment of Grace's Mosaic Moments with a list of my Romantic Suspense and Mysteries set in Venice and neighboring Sarasota, with a shout-out to Orlando. All are available from Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, OverDrive & Scribd. 


Romantic Suspense:


A killer gloats as he stalks Realtors in the Gulf Coast resort community of Golden Beach, Florida, where Claire Langdon, a sophisticated but vulnerable New England widow with a young son, now works in real estate. When she acquires a self-proclaimed protector—a half-Russian, half-Florida cracker ex-Fed—vercoming the cultural shock is almost as difficult as catching the killer.


 Suffering from burn-out, Mandy Armitage, a vital member of her family's international investigations agency, is sent on a working vacation to Florida—as research assistant to a best-selling author. The only problem:  the author is the husband she hasn't seen in five years. As if that weren't enough of a challenge, her assignment plunges her into the darkness of international human trafficking and the ruthless men who run it. As the world around her literally goes up in flames, the girl once known as Mandy Mouse metamorphoses into a dynamic, independent woman, as she discovers how easily black and white can dissolve into shades of gray.

Note:  Cross-over characters from Shadowed Paradise make appearances in Paradise Burning.


 A Florida Highway Patrol officer investigates his brother's injury in a Medieval Fair tournament and discovers an astounding sub-culture in today's Florida—the Medieval re-enactment group, the Lords & Ladies of Chivalry. He also finds a Lady Knight, fighting her way out of years of abuse. Michael Turco and Kate Knight both have a great deal to learn before they can solve a crime and lay each other's ghosts and preconceptions.


Romantic Suspense (Orlando area):

A fledgling PI finds herself in the midst of an international incident with only an oversize mystery man to help her through a maze of Middle-eastern politics, Florida rednecks, and an all-too-elusive love.


Mystery (Venice):


And, yes, that's Machu Picchu

Want to get married in a hot air balloon? Have the bride step out of a Fabergé egg? Just call Fantascapes, the Halliday family business. Trouble in paradise? Call Laine Halliday, who travels the world smoothing out bumps encountered by high-end clients. But when Fantascapes is used as a front by the Russian mob, in action ranging from Florida to Peru to France, Laine steps into a whole new world of Serve and Protect.


 Death by accident, old age, and strangulation. An elderly senior about to marry a con artist. A rash of burglaries. Only an artistic imagination could conjure these disasters into connected events. But costume designer Gwyn Halliday manages it as she flees trauma in the big city only to discover that bad things can also happen in a sleepy Florida retirement community.


Mystery (Sarasota):


Someone is killing people at the Bellman Museum, staging the deaths as bizarre works of art. Though struggling to recover from a severe injury and the death of her lover, FBI Special Agent Rory Travis can't resist the challenge of tackling this mystery, which brings two new men into her life. But in the end she stands alone, facing evil one-on-one.

Note: Many will recognize the primary setting as the John & Mable Ringling Museum.

Suspense/Thriller w/Orlando scenes:


A lost Russian nuke plunges FBI Special Agent Vee Frost into a world-wide chase, from East Coast to the Mid-West, from Florida to Siberia, on to Iran, and back again. Her only companion, an amnesiac Russian who may have the key to the location of the lost bomb locked in his head.

Note:   During the chaos of the break-up of the Soviet Union (c. 1990), ten nuclear bombs went missing. Limbo Man is a tale of "what might have been."


Romantic Suspense w/Florida scenes:


A threat to an organic foods business brings together two people from diverse backgrounds—one from New England and Palm Beach; the other, a tough second-generation Hispanic entrepreneur. Their fight to save the pure foods they grow and sell is complicated by teenage relatives who are being used by a terrorist for his own ends. And by a culture clash strong enough to resound over two continents. Even if they win their fight against terrorism and corporate greed, their personal differences may be more difficult to solve.

 ~ * ~


For a link to Blair's updated website, click here.

 For a link to Blair's updated Facebook Author Page

with background details on Secrets, click here.


Thanks for stopping by,

Grace (Blair Bancroft)

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Venice - the Gulf Coast's Best-Kept Secret

As mentioned last week, I'm really torn about revealing the long-kept secret of the setting of my mystery novels, that artificial "island" on Florida's Gulf Coast, called Venice. And yes, the name is deliberate. Way back in the 1920s Venice was one of the first "planned" communities in the nation, its streets carefully laid out, its architecture coordinated, emphasizing the Mediterranean look with red-tiled roofs—a style that has become ubiquitous in Florida.

Below are a few photos from the little city of my heart, one of the best places to live in the whole wide world. (Which is why I've kept it a secret for so long—I really want it to stay the way it is and not get paved over and built up until it's indistinguishable from the artificiality of that Disney World for Adults, the Villages.)

Photos in the order of my explorations back to former haunts:


North Manasota Beach, just south of Venice

Snook Haven on the Myakka River - 10 miles inland

Caspersen Beach - Venice, Gulfside

A tiny portion of boulevarded Venice Ave. (Main Street)

Venice Avenue extends from Venice Beach on the Gulf of Mexico 10 miles inland to the Myakka River, which is so much of a jungle that early Tarzan movies were filmed there. (It always reminds me of the river in Apocalypse Now.) In the town center Venice Avenue features two blocks of unique boutiques. (I always try to get to Venice Stationers at least once each fall to buy their Florida-oriented Christmas cards.) And then there's Sea Pleasures & Treasures, a shop that offers many wonders from the sea, including the sharks' teeth for which Venice is famous. (Also the many findings needed to turn sea treasures into bolo ties, necklaces, bracelets, earrings, etc.) And then there's the children's clothing shop. All three of these businesses have been on Venice Avenue since I first saw it in 1964, and they've been joined by other unique shops and restaurants, even a Sotheby's! 

Even the alley between shops & parking is decorative.

The South Jetties, looking West

The Venice Jetties are the only access between the Gulf of Mexico and the Intercoastal Waterway for ten miles in either direction. Pretty quiet this time of year but madly busy during "the Season" - December - March.

From the South Jetty, looking north, with a storm coming in

Seagrape flower at the edge of the Jetty.

I included the Crow's Nest (near the Jetties) in my list of pilgrimage sites, eating in the "pub" downstairs instead of the glass-fronted restaurant on the second story, because that small, intimate pub is where I ate when I wanted a night out during the early years of my widowhood. The pub includes a seafood market, and while there last week I teased them for alleging that their "Wellfleet" oysters were from Maine. Having lived in Wellfleet, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, when I was four - and having tromped the muddy oyster beds there during many subsequent visits - I knew better!

The Crow's Nest also offers dockage - jammed w/50-100' yachts in winter

Crow's Nest, looking west toward the Jetties

The rain came tumbling down, and as it finally cleared, it was time to go to the Venice Boat Ramp (down by the old train station where one of the Ringling Brothers' train cars is now a museum) and pick Susie up. Below, a photo of an egret and the boat launch ramp with the Rte. 41 drawbridge in the background.

Egret, boat ramp, Shakett Creek & drawbridge

Below, a few photos from other trips to Venice, some taken by daughter Susie, including these manatees from her latest (and last of the season) diving trip.

Mating season

Caspersen Beach, 2016

Erosion - Caspersen's, 2016

Lunch on Venice Avenue, 2016

An "oops" at the Jetties (occupant saved)

Venice Sunset 2020

Venice Sunset, 2020

No wonder cars line up along the beaches every night, year round!

~ * ~



As always, a 20% free read is available at Smashwords.

For a link to Secrets on Amazon, click here.

For a link to Secrets on Smashwords, click here.


For a link to Blair's updated website, click here.

 For a link to my updated Facebook Author Page

with background details on Secrets, click here.


Thanks for stopping by,

Grace (Blair Bancroft)

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Venice - Florida's Best-kept Secret

 I was driving out of my subdivision Tuesday afternoon when I saw these three Sandhill Cranes. Fortunately, no one was behind me, so I was able to stop and take this photo out the car window.

Sandhill Cranes, Longwood, FL - 9/28/21



 This is a story that began decades ago (and no, I won't admit to how many). For three years (when I was age 5-8), my father was principal of the high school in Mansfield, Massachusetts. The Superintendent of Schools and his wife were a Mr. & Mrs. Merrill. My family kept in touch with them through the years, even after my father took a job in Connecticut and Mr. Merrill retired to Florida. Many years later, my parents retired not to Florida but to Cape Cod, where my father had his first job out of Harvard Graduate School as Principal (and Science & Math teacher) at the small high school in Wellfleet. Our family loved the Cape, visited it every year, so naturally that's where they wished to retire. Except . . .

My father always wrote wonderful letters, descriptive and full of humor. I still recall the one where he said, "Your mother just came in all excited. A car passed by outside." This, alas, was Cape Cod in the winter; specifically Orleans, though I imagine the absence of people was even worse in smaller towns like Wellfleet and Truro. In short, my parents began to look for a "winter cottage" in Florida. And guess where they looked? In the town where their old friends, the Merrills, had retired so many years before. (I've often wondered where the Merrills learned about Venice, but that is destined to remain forever a secret.)

Which brings us to Florida's Best-kept Secret. Venice, on Florida's Gulf Coast, has so much going for it, I won't even try to make a list. I lived in Venice myself for 25 years, moving there while my children were in high school. I began my writing in Venice, using it as the setting for most of my mysteries. And yes, Venice is the town I kept nameless for so long because its residents really, really want to keep an influx of snowbirds from over-running the area's amazing offerings of ocean, waterway, rivers, and wilderness surrounding a core of unique boutiques, gourmet restaurants, boating, fishing, diving, hiking, etc., etc. Venice is where my daughter started picking up fossilized sharks' teeth on the beach when barely old enough to toddle (while visiting the grandparents over winter break) and just in the past year she learned to scuba so she could dive for sharks' teeth off the Venice coast.

Earlier this month, I accompanied Susie back to Venice. While she went diving, I had an absolute ball driving around to some of my favorite places, most of which have remained the same, thank goodness, since I moved to Orlando in 2007. (Park facilities have improved; more beach access opened up through the dunes, and yes, more subdivisions, but the Venice/Nokomis/Englewood area has done a great job of keeping its beauty spots intact.)

A couple of statistics before the pics. Venice Avenue (main street) stretches ten miles, from Venice Beach on the west and to the Myakka River to the east (the road turning to gravel for the last mile). Downtown Venice became an island when the Intracoastal Waterway was built, the only access over three drawbridges. Venice was home to Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey for more than a quarter century - until the rail line deteriorated to the point that no one could afford to fix it. While I lived there, the arrival of the circus to its winter quarters next to the airport was a Grand Event. And I suspect Venice was one of the few towns in the country that could boast live camels and llamas in its Christmas pageant! 

On the negative side, Venice airport became notorious the day after 9/11, when it was discovered Mohammad Atta, coordinator of the Al Queda pilots, learned to fly in Venice and contacted the other pilots through the computers at the local library (confiscated by the FBI on 9/12). But, fortunately, that is only blot on Venice's reputation, and it has bounced back to maintain its rating as an ideal place to live.

If Venice is so great, why did I move to Orlando? To be near the grandchildren, of course. But Venice will always have my heart. The best place I've ever lived, bar none.

Susie had to be at the dive boat by 7:45 a.m., so the first thing I needed after dropping her off was COFFEE. I bypassed a number of drive-thrus and just kept going until I reached my old neighborhood in South Venice. Sure enough, Dunkin' Donuts was still there. I got a large coffee and a jelly donut and was stepping off the curb on my way back to my car when the entire tall cup of hot coffee spilled—over the hood of my car, over me. I mean, I was a mess. Dripping, I went back in, got a refill, which I treated much more gingerly before getting it into the car's cup-holder. So . . . first stop - find a place to change. (Fortunately, I'd packed an extra pair of pants.) My first stop, Shamrock Park in South Venice, had grown immensely; in fact, it was still growing, the community house/restrooms closed for reconstruction. Oops. I parked long enough to take a few gulps of coffee, but the front of my shorts was still more brown than blue. So I turned south and kept going until I ended up on Manasota Key, just south of Venice, where the beach just over the north drawbridge now has a large building, tastefully hidden under palm trees, with various offices and meeting rooms besides clean, good-sized restrooms. Changed  at last, I found a bench overlooking the beach, caught my breath, sipped my coffee, enjoyed a conversation with a stranger on a bicycle, and just flat-out enjoyed being "home" again.

Since my tale has meandered on for so long, only a pic or two below. Will save the majority for next week's blog. Seriously, we'd all like to keep Venice a secret, but it really is too great a place not to share. So, if you're zipping by on I-75, take one of those Venice exits and discover what I'm talking about.

~ * ~

Susie and I started off our Venice visit by enjoying an excellent, if noisy, meal at Pop's Sunset Grill in Nokomis, which used to be a kind of "good ol' boy" place on the Intracoastal but has transformed into decor, menu, and prices that rival Venice's finest. It was extra loud when we were there due to a "bachelorette" party.


Pop's Sunset Grill

Taken from my bench on Manasota Beach

From Susie's most recent dive

~ * ~

The Secrets of Stonebridge Castle, a Regency Gothic featuring multiples ghosts, multiple murders, and a second chance at love, is now available through most online vendors.


As always, a 20% free read is available at Smashwords.

For a link to Secrets on Amazon, click here.

For a link to Secrets on Smashwords, click here.


For a link to my updated Facebook Author Page

with background details on Secrets, click here.


Thanks for stopping by,

Grace (Blair Bancroft)